Are We Scaring People Away, Or Encouraging Them?
Recently, there has been a surge of articles and forum posts about why Magic is socially unaccepted and how it discourages normal behaviors. We've heard how it encourages obesity, a lack in social skills, and a lack of hygiene. We've heard about how people spend way too much time trying to achieve goals and dreams. All in order to answer a simple question: Why isn't Magic more popular?
In all honesty, this is each person's attempt to satisfy their own needs by trying to change what they see as"bad" in our community. The first is the need that Magic satisfies in them. Whether it is the love of strategy and planning or the love of cardboard cards with art on them, Magic suits a need in every player. The second is a need that is implanted in the American society from birth*: We all want to be socially accepted. We want everyone to like us and like what we like.
There is nothing wrong with either of these needs. Unfortunately, both needs can't be met at the same time. This is where the mental debates begin and these articles are formed.
As much as I would like for everyone to think of Magic the way that I think of Magic, it can't happen. Society has branded it witchcraft, devilry, and just bad stuff... So in deciding to play Magic, one must understand and accept the persona that follows them by playing it. Some people are willing to accept that - and others, such as Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Stanton, aren't able to. Instead of searching for what it is in them that makes them uncomfortable with these truths, they instead look for why it is they can't satisfy both needs by making Magic more popular. In order to do this, they attack the Magic community under the assumption that we are"scaring people away."
This cannot be farther from the truth.
I'd like to answer some of the statements in the most recent article by Ms. Kaplan.
"The player hurt worst by this perception is the young adult who is training in earnest for a Pro Tour slot, whose time and money are consumed by playtesting, travel, tournaments, and cards."
While at first this seems true, it's actually the opinion of the writer. By definition, time must be spent on something, whether in action or thought. So whether I am playing Magic or doing something else, my time is"consumed." In the same fashion, my money must be spent. Eventually, I will have to spend some money. Also, if I am willingly choosing to spend my money on Magic, then it is the same as buying a CD or a DVD. Both of those are both standard purchases by teenagers, so why is buying Magic cards a bad thing?
In truth, the actual meaning of this statement is:"Whose time is being spent on playtesting and travel, and whose money is being spent on tournaments and cards, instead of on things like (insert something more socially accepted here)."
"Are Magic players, as a rule, antisocial? Do they start out that way and gravitate toward Magic as a way to get fame and fortune by doing little, or does Magic stunt the moral and ethical growth of our young boys?"
This is a set of questions that opens a can of worms... And the largest question is,"Are Magic players antisocial as a rule?" The answer is obviously no, although she means for us to conclude yes. The purpose of the question is to guide us into agreeing with her that Magic stunts the moral and ethical growth of children.
Can it really be true, though? This is a case of society setting standards - and anything that strays from those standards is cast away because it's negative. Without going into detail about how negative these standards really are (because that's a long and hard debate), I will only say that this is false.
But the real corker is the question in the middle:"Do they start out that way and gravitate toward Magic as a way to get fame and fortune by doing little?" This statement seems a bit misplaced, because it negates any attempt for the writer to connect with her audience. Magic is far from a way to gain fame and fortune - and what little fame does come with winning comes at the cost of much more work than she credits us for.
"Friends, parents, and spouses of Magic players often tell me they are appalled at the number of overweight Magic players at tournaments."
The simple fact is that most overweight players were overweight before they started playing. What I'm"appalled" by is the fact that our community is being chided by adults for not encouraging overweight players to lose weight, like such other popular venues of entertainment such as sports. In all honesty, the fact that there are a large number of overweight players shows how open and inviting our environment is. Never once can I remember someone being made fun of at a tournament because their weight... But I can remember several times where football players laughed at the"fat kids." Magic is no more an encouragement for obesity than televised sports, programming, or any other activity that requires one to sit down in a chair for more than twenty minutes and do something.
So what did this article actually establish? It has done little more than express the writer's feelings toward Magic, and in no way actually answers the question posed in the article - namely,"How can we change society's impression of Magic?" Although the writer does admit that she does indeed play Magic and has for a good amount of time, she expresses fully in her article that Magic is, in her opinion, a negative impact on a child and that it"stunts the growth" of"young adults."
If this article's opinions were true, then games like chess would be as popular and more funded in the education system as most sports programs. Instead, chess players get the"geek" rep and are scoffed at. Is any of this a bad thing? No, I think it's a good thing. We've established a community where a person is judged by their skills and intelligence and not their looks. If social outcasts are attracted to that then I say,"Come on in."
* - This is merely an American trait. I can only speak for the American culture, being that I am an American. This is no way implies that every country is this way.